What, precisely, is eczema? The scientific name for it is dermatitis and it is a term used to describe a range of skin conditions. These go from very dry skin to reddening, even cracking or swelling, or give bumps that bleed or ooze.
Eczema can appear anywhere on the body, but with babies it centers on the scalp, forehead, chest and around the joints. In severe cases it can be very itchy and your baby might get irritated and will lose its sleep.
The eczema can be hereditary (atopic) and leads to an oversensitivity of the immune system or can be caused by prolonged or immediate exposure to a certain allergen.
It is already good to know that most babies grow out of eczema by the time they become two or three years old.
In the meantime, there are things parents can do for their baby:
1. While skin affected by eczema is extremely dry, it is good to moisturize the baby’s skin. This can be done by using a lotion several times a day, and especially after a bath. You can use baby lotion or baby oil, and also lotions made of AloeVera.
2. When you give a bath to your baby, pay attention to the warmth of it. Lukewarm water will help to keep the baby’s skin moisturized and hydrated.
3. You can also add some oatmeal powder (two cups of oatmeal, grinded in a food processor) to the bath water. Leave the baby in it for about fifteen minutes, and then rinse it carefully and dab the skin with a soft towel.
4. You can home-make a natural skin wash to help the baby with the itch. Mix one teaspoon of comfrey root, one teaspoon of white oak bark, one teaspoon of slippery elm bark and two cups of water. Warm up (medium heat) until it boils, and then let it simmer for half a hour. Cool off, and use the liquid (get rid of the solids) as any face wash.
5. Please avoid detergents. Washing powders can be irritating, so use products that are skin-sensitive and dry your linen out in the open instead of putting it in the tumble dryer.
6. When it comes to clothing, go for cotton clothes. Avoid synthetics that can add to the irritation.
7. Keep your home dust-free. Hoover as many times a possible or, even better, get rid of those carpets! Allowing air to get into the house is also helpful.
8. Try to keep pets away from the nursery. When the baby touches the pet, wash its hands afterwards.
9. You can minimize the scratching (a natural reflex of the baby) by keeping its nails short. In worse cases, you can give the baby cotton mittens before a nap.
10. The use of probiotics (or ‘good’ bacteria). These are live micro-organisms that are naturally found in the digestive tract. Scientific research showed that babies suffering from eczema have different types of bacteria in their bowls than other babies, and that a probiotic supplement can reduce eczema.